Guilty as charged: all available evidence implicates complement's role in fetal demise

Guillermina Girardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Appropriate complement inhibition is an absolute requirement for normal pregancy. Uncontrolled complement activation in the maternal-fetal interface leads to fetal death. Here we show that complement activation is a crucial and early mediator of pregnancy loss in two different mouse models of pregnancy loss. Using a mouse model of fetal loss and growth restriction (IUGR) induced by antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL), we examined the role of complement activation in fetal loss and IUGR. We found that C5a-C5aR interaction and neutrophils are key mediators of fetal injury. Treatment with heparin, the standard therapy for pregnant patients with aPL, prevents complement activation and protects mice from pregnancy complications induced by aPL, and anticoagulants that do not inhibit complement do not protect pregnancies. In an antibody-independent mouse model of spontaneous miscarriage and IUGR (CBA/JxDBA/2) we also identified C5a as an essential mediator. Complement activation caused dysregulation of the angiogenic factors required for normal placental development. In CBA/JxDBA/2 mice, we observed inflammatory infiltrates in placentas, functional deficiency of free vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), elevated levels of soluble VEGF receptor-1 (sVEGFR-1, also known as sFlt-1; a potent anti-angiogenic molecule), and defective placental development. Inhibition of complement activation blocked the increase in sVEGFR-1 and rescued pregnancies. Our studies in antibody-dependent and antibody-independent models of pregnancy complications identified complement activation as the key mediator of damage and will allow development of new interventions to prevent pregnancy loss and IUGR.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-92
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Reproductive Immunology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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